How to Become a Wiser You

Being wise is a good quality. It means we have a combination of knowledge and experience coupled with just enough compassion, good judgment, humility and willingness to share with others. Sounds like a winning combination? It is, especially if you want to succeed in life.

Why is wisdom important?
Most of us don’t think of ourselves in terms of being particularly wise. We credit such honors to our favorite fictional characters like Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings, Charlotte, Charlotte’s Web, Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird, Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, and Yoda, Star Wars, or people like Oprah Winfrey, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, and Mahatma Gandhi. However, each of us harbor bits and pieces of wisdom. As we cultivate our wisdom, we strengthen our contributions to the collective success of society.

How can you become wiser?
Gaining new wisdom is an ongoing process of discovery. According to Aristotle, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  Therefore, to embark on your quest for a wiser you, challenging yourself to:

(1)  Experience new opportunities.  It’s impossible to gain wisdom when you close yourself off to new possibilities. Get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Put yourself into situations to learn and grow. You might consider going to places you have never been before, engaging in skill building activities that are new to you, and participating in novel social events. Change it up and see where it takes you.

(2)  Open your mind to diverse perspectives.  Set aside your biases and be receptive to different concepts and points of view. Develop a sense of curiosity as you observe the world from different angles. Don’t base your perspective on the popular opinion or what is comfortable for you. Let your mind be a judgement free sponge for innovative ideas. Be humble as you encounter new learnings and experiences.

(3)  Approach new people.  Get out and meet new people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Put forth the effort to listen and learn from them without inflicting your own preconceived stereotypes and judgments.  Foster conversations that include sharing yourself with others as well as learning more about them. As a perk, focus on cultivating new friendships.

(4)  Develop a thirst for learning.  Concentrate on learning new things every day. Make it a point to take classes, read books, listen to educational podcasts, watch documentaries, and search the internet for thought-provoking insights. Given the volume of fake information out there, strengthen your critical thinking skills as you actively investigate a problem or situation from multiple perspectives.

(5)  Draw upon the wisdom of others.  Find wise people to become your mentors. They might include a teacher, spiritual leader, family member, special friend, or someone at work. Identify what makes this person wise and carve out time to engage in meaningful dialogue with them. Soak in their knowledge and experience and apply their wisdom to your life.

(6)  Admit and learn from your mistakes.  One of the best ways to gain wisdom is by learning from your own mistakes. Whenever you make a mistake, own up to it, stop blaming other people, and start making it a teachable moment. Your best teacher is your last mistake if you take time to learn and grow from it.

(7)  Share your wisdom with others.  As you gain experience, knowledge, and good judgement, believe in your own wisdom and be willing to communicate it with others. In today’s world, very few of us will reach the highest order of being wise, but all of us can and should contribute to the collective wisdom of the crowd in all venues of life. So, dare to inspire humanity by becoming a wiser you.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.
– George Bernard Shaw

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A.  in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, volunteers for AARP, writes for a local magazine, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University  and on the Board for LEARN Idaho.  Since February 2017, she has been the founding director for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging.  As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.